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Across the Atlantic and on to Scotland

by Sue and Andy Warman 21 Dec 2022 14:20 UTC
Plocrapol - Village in Harris © Sue and Andy Warman

OCC Roving Rear Commodores Sue and Andy Warman, s/v SPRUCE, return to the UK after some 66,000 miles of cruising abroad.

The double La Niña year seems to have upset the North Atlantic weather systems. While awaiting a "window" to sail for the Azores the normal high-pressure area remained stubbornly located between Azores and Newfoundland. When it periodically collapsed, depressions often came south of the Azores before moving towards Biscay with stormy offerings. Our passage to the east was undertaken south of the Bahamas. Three significant depressions were encountered giving 30-35 knot squalls on the cold fronts. Swirling currents frequently opposed the wind creating steep short seas for a time.

Notable memories of the passage were large numbers of Portuguese Man o' War jellyfish, sometimes tumbling in boisterous conditions, sedately cruising during calms. During the crossing, winds came from every direction and strength from calm to near gale force.

The Azores were wonderful: fully stocked supermarkets, lovely outdoor cafes amidst aged architecture, parks and public gardens bedecked with colourful flowers. History of European trade with and pillage of the New World exudes from every cobble and brick. Car tours around the islands of Faial and Sao Jorge were much enjoyed. Bucolic scenes of small-scale farming abound, vistas that are no doubt little changed for decades. Dairy farming and cheese making are prevalent. We visited a cheese factory and sampled tasty fare.

The delightful city of Angra do Heroismo on the south coast of Terceira was an unexpected delight, once the capital town of the Azores. Old churches, municipal buildings, and delectable cottages line the streets and plazas, gazing out on the generations that wander through the history of these islands. The volcanic nature of the islands is visible and felt: Sao Jorge continues to have tremors, Faial's west coast shows the effects of the 1957 eruption, and the island of Pico is effectively one large volcano.

A short month gone, and our identical replacement AIS transponder delivered, we were ready to sail to the UK. A little over nine days saw our arrival in Wales at Milford Haven. It was another passage of mixed weather, close hauled for a couple of days while getting clear of the high-pressure zone, then mainly close reaching as depressions passed to the north. A final two days with poled-out genoa had us running towards our destination. It was rather a surreal feeling to be back. Eleven years after swapping boats and taking our departure from the South Coast for Madeira.

A week was spent visiting family and a few friends. A rental car, and driving 900 miles with eye-watering fuel costs at the pumps, was accompanied by lush leaf-covered trees; previous visits by air travel had always been during winter. Traffic was heavier than remembered, such rush and hustle-bustle. Could we ever re-adapt?

It was time to sail for less populated regions. Skomer Island in West Wales, a bird sanctuary, provided a wonderful anchorage while we awaited weather to go north. Teems of puffins prepare for winter at sea after breeding. Huge quantities of wildlife -- gannets, guillemots, razor-bills, seals -- and evidently plenty of fish in the sea, was a total contrast with Cuba and the Bahamas which we thought quite bereft.

Onward to Scotland. A direct passage of 235 miles was made to Machrihanish on the west side of the Kintyre Peninsula. Fierce tidal currents not encountered since British Columbia three years ago met us as we rounded the Mull of Kintyre, an hour later than hoped. A final 9 miles spent bucking a 4-knot foul current brought us to anchor in fading light at 22:45 on 16th July. The joy of long summer days was of course accompanied by rain driven before a brisk south-easterly breeze.

Spruce has arrived in her new cruising ground, the bonnie West Coast of Scotland after 66,000 miles cruising abroad.

OCC member Ulf Johansson, aboard Juva, who we first met in Cuba, then Bahamas and Azores, is in Ireland. We shall meet up in Islay next week before he moves on through the Caledonian Canal toward home in is a small world.

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